So they're of legal drinking age now, and they look it, too: On the CD sleeve, Donnas A., C., F., and R. dress it up and tone it down 'til they resemble girls who went from serving cocktails to ordering them without having to flash fake IDs. Gone are the skintight tees (tease?) and leather pants that fit like first and second skin, replaced by Friday-night finery on loan from Suzi Quatro on her way to Studio 54 by way of CBGB's. But if the girls are women now, the music's stuck in their adolescence -- actually, their parents' adolescence, as the Donnas' brand of one-two-three-chord Boone's Farm punk came and went around the time Joey Ramone still looked like he had a pulse. Their new album's the same as the last, and the one before that: Only title and cover choice (Judas Priest's "Living After Midnight" in place of Mötley Crüe's "Too Fast for Love") give away the fact you've bought new instead of used, and even then, that's an iffy proposition. Call it the band's "latest," because to call it "new" would mean you've never heard this before, and, well, that'd be a damned lie. Even if you've never heard of the Donnas.
The band that couldn't "wait to lose it" on the first album is giving it up all over the place this go-round: in the bathroom stall, in the back seat of the Chevy, in Stuttgart, in the kitchenette, on the basketball court, at the hot dog stand, in a cop car (with a cop, no duh) and, when too stoned and stuffed to make it out of the house, somewhere between the kitchen sink and the bathroom toilet. Turn 21 is the album every father of a pint-size Spice Girls fan wishes those ladies would make: a fuck-fuck-goose adventure drenched in dope haze, a cumming-of-age diary in which sex is as casual as a Hawaiian shirt ("The drinks are too few tonite/So I guess I'll have to do U tonite") and as available as a breath of stale air ("I come into town and have a look around/And then I find a guy who wants to get down"). There's nothing wrong with girls who just wanna have fun, but after a while, you have to wonder: Don't they ever wanna cuddle? Probably not; these girls would rather pass out in their own puke than fall asleep in their sweetie's arms. "Guess we'll just drink Theraflu/It says drink one so we chug four/Hey, what happened to the floor?"
Of course, it's all in good fun, but that's all it is -- mindless and meaningless, pogoing on that fine line separating the extant from the extinct. The Donnas blitzkrieg bop 'til they drop, then keep going, blissfully unaware (or, more to the point, without a care) that theirs is a brand of music long ago turned to fossil fuel at the bottom of the Hudson River. Bless them for keeping irony out of the mix -- there's nothing worse than dilettantes only playing at punk, as though condescension is a viable substitution for passion and inspiration -- but damn them for not growing up; they're stuck in a rut and too fucked-up and sexed-out sore to do anything about it. By channeling the Ramones and Runaways and, maybe most of all, Redd Kross (the three R's, presumably), the Donnas are nothing but carbon copies of hand-me-downs -- talented carbons, no doubt, but freeze-dried too, no more the Real Deal than animatronic exhibits stuck in the 1977 wing of the punk-rock museum. Listen to Turn 21 a dozen times, and you'll swear you never heard it once -- until you remember you've heard it a million times, back when it was titled Queens of Noise . . . and Rocket to Russia . . . and Bad Reputation . . . and Pottymouth . . . and so forth.
Nita's Hideaway in Tempe
Scheduled to perform on Saturday, February 24, with Bratmobile and Tuuli. Showtime is 8 p.m.
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